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Some young Israelis forgiving and forgetting city's sinister past - are now bound for Berlin

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
March 11th, 2013
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

Berlin, Germany has always held a sinister allure. In the first half of the 20th Century, it was a place for international decadence and revelry. In the middle point, Berlin was associated with all the surrounding evils of Hitler's Third Reich. In the latter part of that century, it was symbolic of a nation divided, the Berlin Wall a possible flashpoint of nuclear conflagration between the United States and the former Soviet Union. With the wall long gone, Berlin has been attracting new tenants that may come as a surprise - young Israelis who have come to Germany for a better life.

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - The trend has been ongoing with the Israeli embassy in Berlin putting the estimate at around 15-20,000, while other place the number of former Israelis living in Berlin at closer to 30,000. As so many of them are of European descent and hold European passports, they don't officially count as "Israeli immigrants."

"You can compare Berlin to New York City in the '80s", Emmanuel Nahshon, the Israeli embassy's envoy in Berlin says. "The city stands for freedom and tolerance. There are a lot of young people from around the world here, not just Israelis. It is cheap to live and study here and there is many cultural and intellectual activities."

Many are fleeing what they perceive to be an increasingly repressive government in their homeland. "It came to a point where I just felt I had to leave. It's the way people in Israel treat you; some called me a traitor," a 35-year-old lawyer says. "If you oppose, the society pushes you aside."

"I felt Israel was very narrow," a former Israeli actress, model and director, who moved from Tel Aviv just before her 30th birthday says.

"People here don't have this stress like we do. Israel is not bad - that's not what I am saying. But the reality is hard, in a quiet way. It's hard to make a living. There's the occupation, the army, the religion. The society teaches you that this is the only place for you and you're not welcome in other places. It's a country that is occupying another country and it makes its own people crazy. And I am not even talking about the Palestinian people," she adds.

Relatively inexpensive rent in Germany is an added plus. According to Israeli newspaper Haaretz, property prices in Israel's business hub have risen by 71 percent between 2000 and 2011. In 2012, the price of homes in Tel Aviv rose by an additional 3.7 percent.

A poll by the Center for Academic Studies conducted in 2011 revealed that 70 percent of Israelis don't forgive Germany for the past, as many young Israelis have grandparents who either fled or survived the Holocaust.

Jewish history is still perceptible in Berlin, a city whose streets are sprinkled with Stolpersteine, small memorials the size of cobblestones embedded in the pavement.

"I notice everything. When I go for a walk along the canal, I wonder: 'what have these waters seen?'" She adds, "Come on, it's behind us," speaking for many of her compatriots who live in Berlin.

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